Menopause Friendly – information and advice for clubs and coaches
We are working to help our members learn about menopause, and help our clubs to become as welcoming as possible to those going through menopause, with the Menopause Friendly campaign.
We can’t alter the physical facts of menopause, but we can help those going through it. We want to create a world where scottishathletics members going through menopause:
Can feel strong, confident and proud of themselves, even when they’re facing difficult physical and mental challenges.
Feel free to talk about their experiences without shame or embarrassment.
Are informed and empowered, so that they can get the support they need from medical practitioners, friends and family – and the sport.
As a result of those things, stay active through menopause and beyond, at whatever level suits them.
Clubs are invited to make some simple changes to their activities to achieve this, and pledge to talk more about menopause and open up the conversation. If they do this and register their commitment with us, they can use our ‘Menopause Friendly’ branding for promotion.
We developed these these pages with the help of a small focus group of scottishathletics and jogscotland members with lived experience of staying active through menopause, our partners SAMH, and information from the NHS Inform pages on menopause.
Why should clubs and coaches care about menopause?
It’s possible that many of your members might be struggling with menopausal symptoms – you may even have had some leave the club because their symptoms were too difficult to deal with, and you might never have known the reason. For some, staying active through menopause can be a challenge, but physical activity can also really help manage symptoms, so helping people stay with the club could be a real benefit to them.
We’d like to help our clubs and coaches to support their athletes through menopause because it’s one of the barriers that can prevent people from staying active in our sport. We believe passionately that staying active in clubs is hugely positive throughout life, for both physical and mental wellbeing. This is true not only for athletes, but for all the other roles involved in clubs such as coaches, officials and volunteers.
In return for taking some simple steps, we hope you’ll find more of your members stick with athletics through menopause. You can’t solve all the challenges they may face, but you can encourage them to stay active, boost their confidence, and normalise conversations about menopause to reduce feelings of isolation.
We are now offering our Menopause friendly club logo. Clubs are welcome to use this logo online if they pledge to take steps to make their club menopause friendly. It is designed with both the scottishathletics logo, and a ‘fast forward’ logo, to show that you don’t have to put your life on pause for the menopause.
To use the logo, we request that clubs and coaches:
Pledge to educate themselves on the symptoms and challenges for athletes that can come with menopause, and continue to stay informed for as long as the club uses the logo. Before using the logo, club leaders/coaches must have read this page in full, and the similar page for athletes. Ideally, all coaches of adult athletes at your club will do this. You might also want to appoint a specific person to take the lead on your Menopause Friendly activity, or perhaps a team of several people to share responsibility. If possible, we also recommend reading the menopause pages from the NHS Inform website.
Pledge to make training sessions supportive to athletes going through menopause, using the tips on this page. While much of this page focuses on the sporting challenges menopause can pose to athletes, we encourage you also to consider how it can affect other club members such as coaches, officials and volunteers, and seek to support them accordingly.
Pledge to share information about athletics and menopause on the club’s social media to help inform members and normalise it as a topic of conversation.
For as long as you are using the logo, we’d ask you to take active steps to make sure your club is menopause friendly.
Don’t forget to let your members know about the steps you’re taking, and you can also use that information when advertising the group to new members – it might well encourage someone to come along who might otherwise feel uncertain.
Once you start using the logo, please do tag us on social media or send us links and we’d be delighted to promote your participation on the scottishathletics and jogscotland social media channels. You can use the #MenopauseFriendly hashtag, too.
Menopause is a natural event, which typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, as levels of oestrogen drop in the body. The average age of menopause in the UK is 51. Some people experience early menopause, which may be spontaneous, or due to a medical condition, or a result of cancer treatment.
The time before menopause is called perimenopause, and is when many people experience the most symptoms. The time after the last period is postmenopause, generally recognised from 12 months after the last period. For many, symptoms will abate with postmenopause, but for some they will continue for longer.
For simplicity, in general on these pages, we will use the term ‘menopause’ to refer to the time from peri- to post-menopause, except where there is a specific need to differentiate between the different stages.
A wide variety of physical and mental symptoms can result from menopause, and they can appear (and disappear) throughout perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause. Everyone’s experience is different. Some may have few, or no symptoms at all. For others these symptoms are not just minor irritations – they can be debilitating and make everyday life difficult. Symptoms may also fluctuate from week to week, month to month, and year to year.
Symptoms can include:
changes in mood – such as low mood or irritability
changes in skin conditions, including dryness or increase in oiliness and onset of adult acne
difficulty sleeping, which may cause tiredness and irritability during the day
discomfort during sex
feelings of loss of self
hair loss or thinning
headaches or migraines
hot flushes – short, sudden feelings of heat, usually in the face, neck and chest, which can make your skin red and sweaty. There can also be a wider with temperature regulation – feeling hot one minute and cold the next.
increase in facial hair
incontinence and pelvic floor issues
joint stiffness, aches and pains
loss of self-confidence
night sweats – hot flushes that occur at night
palpitations – heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable
problems with memory, concentration and ‘brain fog’
recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs), such as cystitis
reduced sex drive (libido)
reduced running pace
slower running recovery
vaginal dryness and pain
It’s easy to read all these symptoms and feel that menopause is something to approach with a sense of dread! But this is a comprehensive list, which doesn’t mean that everyone will experience them all. They are also likely to fluctuate, and there are things that can be done to help manage symptoms.
Some of the symptoms above will have obvious effects on someone’s ability to continue enjoying sport – for example fatigue and joint aches. Others may be less obvious but can still have an impact. For example:
Changes in mood can reduce motivation and confidence.
Difficulty sleeping can reduce energy during the day.
Temperature regulation issues like hot flushes can make exercise uncomfortable or awkward, with athletes constantly putting layers on and off.
Excessive sweating during hot flushes may make athletes self-conscious.
Physical symptoms such as UTIs, incontinence, irregular/heavy bleeding, breast tenderness or vulval dryness can make sport uncomfortable or worrying.
Irregular or heavy bleeding can be difficult to manage when training.
Brain fog can make it harder to concentrate or remember instructions and directions.
Reduced performance and increased recovery can be demoralising and make people want to drop out.
People other than athletes could also be affected – for example officials or coaches who are fatigued, or who need to make more regular toilet trips may find it harder to stay in the field for long periods of time, or may find brain fog makes it harder to carry out their roles.
As they go through menopause, we want our members to continue feeling strong, active, and capable. We are proud of every scottishathletics member, and we want to keep our them active throughout menopause and beyond, even if their sporting life changes over the years.
With a little patience and exploration, it’s possible to use these years to set the groundwork for remaining healthy and energetic for many years to come.
Some of the ways that continuing to train with an athletics club can help athletes through menopause and beyond:
Physical activity can help regulate the mood, improving symptoms of anxiety and depression. Being active outdoors, with other people, is particularly beneficial for mental health.
Athletics clubs can be great places to discuss all the things our body puts us through. If we’re already talking about our blisters, chafing and sweat rash, then why not menopause?! You may find other members of your club have experience of menopause that could be useful, and they’ll be happy to chat or offer moral support. If you feel awkward broaching the subject, moments when you’re running shoulder to shoulder without eye contact, can make it easier.
Even though it can be hard to exercise through fatigue, if you can manage to get active, it’s often one of the quickest ways to boost your energy level.
Remaining active in your sport will help you maintain muscle mass and bone density, which both decrease through and after menopause.
Being active can help control weight, and boost your body image and confidence.
Some studies have suggested that exercise can help reduce the occurrence of hot flushes (example).
In some ways, coaching an athlete struggling with menopause symptoms is no different to any other coaching experience – you will always coach the athlete in front of you on the day, and this is no exception. Keep up an open dialogue about their abilities and challenges, and be prepared to adapt accordingly. A good coach will as a matter of course alter implement/gym weights, plyometrics and fitness/speed training for both the athlete and the training time of the year; with menopause in the mix, symptoms such as fatigue or muscle/joint aches, may vary week to week, and so training may need to be even more flexible and adaptable. If athletes need to vary the intensity of their training from week to week as symptoms fluctuate, make that easy for them to do, without them needing to explain why. It can be tough to work out who needs encouragement to push themselves and who needs to be given a break, but bear in mind that menopause symptoms can be overwhelming and might be a genuine reason for needing an easier session, even if they appeared stronger/fitter at a previous session.
During road running sessions, offer out-and-back routes, where everyone eg. runs out for 20 minutes and then turns back, so that people with difficult physical symptoms can cover a shorter distance but still finish with the rest of the group. You might consider introducing a jogscotland group, walking group or Jeffing group (Jeffing = walk/run intervals, not done as a stepping stone to improvement, but as an end in themselves), offering less intense sessions, if it enables athletes to remain as club members.
If training outwith a facility (eg. road running), start and end your sessions somewhere with toilets that are open and free to use. This will reassure those dealing with issues like incontinence, heavy periods, or needing frequent trips to the loo. It will also be popular with everyone else! Think about how you could help athletes who might want to shed layers due to hot flushes and temperature changes. Can you offer to carry a coat or jumper? Is there a safe spot people can leave them mid-session and circle back to collect them?
Athletes struggling with stress incontinence or heavy periods might find it particularly challenging to train for events such as jumps, hurdles or heavy throws. If you think this might be the case, let your training group know that you’re always open to chatting about menopausal symptoms, without focusing on any individual – this might be enough for them to talk with you about it if they feel comfortable. Having some lower-impact options for training, or even supporting a change of discipline if the athlete prefers, might be enough to keep someone attending club sessions who would otherwise leave the sport completely.
Remind athletes of the changes that might make training and competing more achievable as they progress through age groups. For example, for throws athletes, bear in mind that the age group change at 50 brings lighter implements, which might make continuing to compete more achievable; for hurdlers, hurdle heights will drop; endurance runners who might feel frustrated by changes in their performance in their late 40s might find it motivating to remember that they’ll change age groups at 50 and become the youngest in their new age groups, with the relative performance boost that brings – and so on.
Remember that “brain fog” is a common symptom of menopause and might include poor memory or concentration. Keep your instructions clear, and tell your athletes it’s fine to ask you to repeat instructions for the session that they might have forgotten.
Listen, non-judgementally, if someone talks to you about their menopause experiences. By all means offer suggestions if they ask for them, but also bear in mind that they might not be looking for a solution – sometimes just being able to say out loud what’s happening to you is valuable.
Look for ways to boost athletes’ confidence for things other than speed and performance. An experienced athlete who is struggling physically right now can still be a great source of advice or encouragement for younger athletes, could be a great club leader, coach, or volunteer.
You don’t have to force people into in-depth discussions to make your club menopause-friendly. One of the most powerful things you can do is to start to drop the word menopause into the normal business of training sessions. You’ll very likely find that anybody who wants to, will then start to feel more comfortable chatting about it and conversations will arise naturally. They might talk to you directly, or to other group members. For example:
Share posts in your facebook group/other social media about menopause, particularly how it relates to sport and athletics.
Mention it in your welcome or warm-ups – make it standard to give people an option eg. “Remember, it’s important to train at your own pace/level. That’s true whether you’re recovering from illness or injury, are feeling the effects of menopause, or have just had a tiring week.”
If you are experiencing menopause yourself and are happy to talk about the way it affects you, go ahead. Telling your athletes “I’ll be taking it a little easier this week because the menopause fatigue is bad” is a great way to lead.
Humour can often help people dealing with difficult experiences, but should only be used if you’re sure it will be well-received. Frequent cracks about hot flushes might make someone feel they can’t talk about the more complex realities of menopause without it being treated as a joke. If in doubt, leave it to the people who are experiencing it to crack the jokes if they feel like it. For some people, knowing the people around them take menopause seriously can create a safe haven to discuss it honestly.
Their sporting lives might change as a result of menopause and that’s OK. They might find they’re slower, less strong, more tired, or need more recovery time and fewer sessions per week. They are still an athlete.
It’s fine to ease off the intensity of your training if your body’s telling you to, whether occasionally or permanently – that’s common and doesn’t mean you have to feel bad about yourself, or give up athletics.
The journey of being active throughout life is about listening to your body and what it needs, day to day and month to month, not about always pushing yourself to perform faster, further, higher, better, year in, year out. Responding to what your body needs is the true mark of a lifelong athlete, not pushing yourself to breaking point.
Menopause is a normal part of life – it can be tough, but you’re probably surrounded by many others who’ve been through it, and chatting about it can be a huge help.
Many people find that staying active can help with menopause symptoms such as fatigue, depression and anxiety. It’s also beneficial for other changes that occur in our body as we grow older, such as loss of muscle mass and bone density.
If you feel you can’t continue with athletics right now, that’s OK. Some people find walking, yoga, or other forms of activity suit them best, and some people really do just need to rest for a while. You’re still an important member of the club – could you get involved as an official, a club leader, coach or volunteer instead? Keep in touch and/or stay active via social media and if you feel like returning at a later date, we’ll welcome you back.
“Brain fog” is a common symptom of menopause and might include poor memory or concentration. It’s fine to ask your coach to repeat instructions for the session that you might have forgotten.
Information is power! Finding out more about menopause can give you more confidence to advocate for yourself with doctors and to talk with friends and family about what’s happening to you. There are useful links below, and chatting with others can also be a great source of knowledge.
Yes! The advice on this page is designed to be useful for everyone, whether or not you have personal experience of menopause.
Whether you will never experience menopause, are young and menopause seems a long way off, or your own menopause was trouble-free, you can still use the tips on this page create the right conditions at your group for people to feel supported through menopause, whatever your personal experience.
Menopause and running – what do clinicians and women need to know? By physiotherapist Claire Callaghan. A technical, but interesting, article focusing on the physical effects of menopause on our joints, bones and muscles.
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